Speaking of secession 18

The great divide between those who want socialism and those who want freedom is unbridgeable. The federal government is imposing socialism, the American people are determined to resist it. What remedies do the people have?

A year ago, Governor Rick Perry mentioned the possibility that Texas might secede from the union, but added that he “saw no reason why it should”.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry fired up an anti-tax “tea party” Wednesday with his stance against the federal government and for states’ rights as some in his U.S. flag-waving audience shouted, “Secede!”

An animated Perry told the crowd at Austin City Hall — one of three tea parties he was attending across the state — that officials in Washington have abandoned the country’s founding principles of limited government. He said the federal government is strangling Americans with taxation, spending and debt. …

Later, answering news reporters’ questions, Perry suggested Texans might at some point get so fed up they would want to secede from the union, though he said he sees no reason why Texas should do that.

“There’s a lot of different scenarios,” Perry said. “We’ve got a great union. There’s absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that. But Texas is a very unique place, and we’re a pretty independent lot to boot.”

Washington has continued to “thumb its nose” at the people. Now 13 [update, 18] states, including Texas, are suing the federal government over issues raised by the health care legislation it pushed through against the will of the majority of Americans. And there is talk of 37 states doing so.

Is secession again in the air?

The Tea Party movement is named to revive the memory of revolutionary secession.

Walter Williams, not for the first time, raises the topic of secession, considers the idea favorably, and comes close to advocating it – though he stops just short of doing so.

Ten years ago I asked the following question in a column titled “It’s Time To Part Company”:

“If one group of people prefers government control and management of people’s lives and another prefers liberty and a desire to be left alone, should they be required to fight, antagonize one another, risk bloodshed and loss of life in order to impose their preferences or should they be able to peaceably part company and go their separate ways?”

The problem that our nation faces is very much like a marriage where one partner has broken, and has no intention of keeping, the marital vows. Of course, the marriage can remain intact and one party tries to impose his will on the other and engage in the deviousness of one-upmanship. Rather than submission by one party or domestic violence, a more peaceable alternative is separation.

I believe we are nearing a point where there are enough irreconcilable differences between those Americans who want to control other Americans and those Americans who want to be left alone that separation is the only peaceable alternative. Just as in a marriage, where vows are broken, our human rights protections guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution have been grossly violated by a government instituted to protect them. 

The Democrat-controlled Washington is simply an escalation of a process that has been in full stride for at least two decades. There is no evidence that Americans who are responsible for and support constitutional abrogation have any intention of mending their ways.

You say, “Williams, what do you mean by constitutional abrogation?” Let’s look at just some of the magnitude of the violations.

Article I, Section 8 of our Constitution lists the activities for which Congress is authorized to tax and spend. Nowhere on that list is authority for Congress to tax and spend for: prescription drugs, Social Security, public education, farm subsidies, bank and business bailouts, food stamps and other activities that represent roughly two-thirds of the federal budget.

Neither is there authority for congressional mandates to the states and people about how they may use their land, the speed at which they can drive, whether a library has wheelchair ramps and the gallons of water used per toilet flush.

The list of congressional violations of both the letter and spirit of the Constitution is virtually without end. Our derelict Supreme Court has given Congress sanction to do anything upon which they can muster a majority vote.

James Madison, the acknowledged father of the Constitution, explained in Federalist Paper No. 45: “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives and liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement and prosperity of the State.”

Americans who wish to live free have several options. We can submit to those who have constitutional contempt and want to run our lives. We can resist, fight and risk bloodshed and death in an attempt to force America’s tyrants to respect our liberties and human rights. We can seek a peaceful resolution of our irreconcilable differences by separating.

Some independence movements, such as our 1776 war with England and our 1861 War Between the States, have been violent, but they need not be. In 1905, Norway seceded from Sweden; Panama seceded from Columbia (1903), and West Virginia from Virginia (1863). Nonetheless, violent secession can lead to great friendships. England is probably our greatest ally.

The bottom-line question for all of us is: Should we part company or continue trying to forcibly impose our wills on one another? My preference is a restoration of the constitutional values of limited government that made us a great nation.

A glorious liberty document 0

There were a number of martyrs in Roman times named Saint Valentine. Of the one whose feast is celebrated on February 14, nothing at all is known except that he was buried on that day. How he became the patron saint of love nobody really knows.

However, there was a man who is worth commemorating on February 14, the date he chose arbitrarily as his ‘birthday’.

His name was Frederick Douglass.

Nick Rizzuto writes about him at Townhall:

He was a giant of a man both physically and intellectually. He was raised in adverse circumstances that he would eventually rise above. When called upon, he served his country admirably in grave times, and broke racial barriers in this nation like no other man before him had. No, I’m not speaking of Abraham Lincoln, although that description would be equally fitting for him; I speak of the great anti-slavery orator Frederick Douglass.

As it was with most people born into slavery, Douglass did not know the exact date of his birth. He did however adopt Valentine’s Day as his birthday due to the fact that his mother, Harriet Bailey, lovingly referred to him as “her little valentine.” This year will mark the 192nd anniversary of Douglass’ birth.

Like many historical figures, Frederick Douglass’s true character and beliefs have been somewhat obscured, whether due to the fog of time, or to fit modern agendas. While we take for granted today that Douglass’ views on the abolition of slavery and women’s suffrage were just, his view of the US Constitution would be considered by many to be out of the mainstream.

On July 5th of 1852, Douglass, who referred to himself as a “black, dyed in the wool Republican”, addressed the Rochester Ladies Anti-Slavery Society in Rochester, New York. During his passionate speech, Douglass said, “Take the Constitution according to its plain reading. I defy the presentation of a single pro-slavery clause in it.” Douglass continued his Independence Day address by proclaiming that, “Interpreted as it ought to be interpreted, the Constitution is a glorious liberty document.”

Imagine the leap of faith that that statement must have taken for a black man who lived in a time in which members of his family were treated as property to view the Constitution as a beacon of liberty. If the self educated scholar Douglass had stood in front of the crowd and torn the document to shreds, one could scarcely have blamed him. While evident to Douglass over 150 years ago, this trust in the idea of limited government in general, and the protections afforded by the United States Constitution specifically, seems to be difficult for many on the American left to accept even today.

What makes Douglass’s praise for the constitution even more unlikely was that he did so according to its “plain reading”; or in other words, as it had been written. He spoke these words before America fought a Civil War to decide once and for all the issue of slavery and even before a single piece of Civil Rights legislation had passed through congress. Douglass did not complain about the lack of specifics in the constitution that indicated what the government “must do on your behalf”, as then Illinois State Senator Barack Obama famously did in a 2001 interview. Nor did he decry that it was a “charter of negative liberties” which, as President Obama has stated he believes, “represented the bias of the founders.”

Douglass’ words came even before The Constitution came to be viewed by many as a series of court cases and precedents rather than a stand-alone document. For example, his praise did not rest on the decision made in Brown vs. Board of Education which would come over 100 years later. Douglass apparently understood that civil rights would not be the products of court decisions, but that they were intrinsic to the nature of our republican form of government.

Disregarding the Constitution 1

One of our readers, bill, points out in a comment on A congress of whores below, that ‘the very act of government involvement in the health care industry is unconstitutional’.

Larry Elder agrees, in an article titled ObamaCare: Freedom on Life Support at Townhall:

What words in the U.S. Constitution allow the federal government to compel every American to purchase health insurance? Where does the Constitution allow the federal government to take money from some Americans and give it to others so that they may purchase health insurance?…

The same people who railed against the Patriot Act, the terror surveillance program and “illegal” torture happily unleash the power of the federal government to redistribute wealth for ObamaCare … Never mind the absence of authority in the Constitution.

The left tells us that “health care is a right, not a privilege.” Surely the Constitution says so. No, it does not. Article I, Section 8 details the limited power, duties and responsibilities of the federal government. Extracting money from your paycheck and giving it back to you when you retire — Social Security? Not there. Taxing workers to pay for the health care of seniors — Medicare? Not there. Mandating that employers pay workers a minimum wage? Not there.

This is not hypothetical. During the Great Depression, the Supreme Court struck down much of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal on constitutional grounds. No, said the Court, the federal government cannot use the Constitution’s commerce clause to regulate virtually all economic activity. No, said the Court, the federal government cannot use the welfare clause to redistribute wealth, whether or not it accomplishes a socially or economically desirable objective.

The Court asserted that the Constitution meant what it said and said what it meant. …

‘Evil, be thou my good!’ 0

… as Satan says in Paradise Lost.

Satan’s HQ on earth is, as we all know, the United Nations. That hellish institution inverts all values. Now it wants criminals to be ‘protected’ as ‘victims’.

Joseph Klein writes at FrontPage:

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, told reporters at UN headquarters during his October 20th press briefing that criminal detainees are “vulnerable” people who need to be protected by a new UN treaty devoted just to the rights of detainees. He said that detainees deserved as much protection by the international community as children and the disabled do — which those groups already receive under the separate UN Conventions devoted just to them.

Presumably, terrorist suspect detainees would also be covered under this new treaty that Nowak is proposing. In fact, he reiterated his opinion – based, he said, on his experience as an international jurist – that the “victims” of rendition and detention are entitled to “adequate reparations”.

But that is not all. In response to my question whether the United Nations’ view of international law would trump a contrary decision by the highest court of a functioning democracy with an independent judiciary such as the United States, Nowak said that international law has “absolute priority.” His rationale was that a UN member state that voluntarily decides to sign and ratify a treaty is bound by the obligations of that treaty. …

In other words, he believes, along with much of the UN establishment, that neither the U.S. Senate nor our judiciary has the final say as to how the United States’ treaty obligations should be interpreted and administered if the United Nations has a different opinion! … In his view, the Constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court cannot be used to justify an action that is at variance with international law as interpreted by the relevant UN bodies.

Here is the problem. The United States cannot be forced into surrendering its own sovereignty to some global governance body unless we look the other way and let it happen. Even if our political leaders decided to enter into a treaty that started us down this slippery path, treaties can neither override nor amend the Constitution under the Constitution’s “Supremacy Clause.” As the Supreme Court concluded years ago, it would simply make no sense for a treaty, once in effect as a result of the exercise of the President’s and the Senate’s constitutional powers, to become the instrument for usurping the legal authority of the Constitution that established those powers in the first place.

Thus, the United States Constitution by definition trumps the United Nations Charter, and all other treaties we may enter into under the UN Charter or otherwise, as the governing instrument for the American people.

However, the danger to this constitutional protection for America’s self-governance lurks within our own judiciary. UN officials are filing so-called friend-of-court briefs with the Supreme Court on human rights issues and the Court is increasingly deferring to their views. …

For example … the former UN High Commissioner took it upon herself while in office to advise the Supreme Court that the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights required the Court to reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals denying the detainees’ petition for habeas corpus and ensure a full habeas corpus proceeding … The Supreme Court listened to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. It incorporated her notion of international law into its decision interpreting what was required under the United States Constitution, over the legislation supported by the two elected branches of our government.

With President Barack Obama expected to increase the number of Supreme Court justices who believe that international and foreign law should be reflected in their interpretations of the U.S. Constitution, Mr. Nowak may get his way after all by default.

Posted under Commentary, Law, United Nations, United States by Jillian Becker on Saturday, October 24, 2009

Tagged with , , , ,

This post has 0 comments.

Permalink

Easing into tyranny 2

Mark Steyn writes in The New Criterion:

Paul A. Rahe’s new book … is called Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift, which nicely captures how soothing and beguiling the process is. Today, the animating principles of the American idea are entirely absent from public discourse. To the new Administration, American exceptionalism means an exceptional effort to harness an exceptionally big government in the cause of exceptionally massive spending…

The professor opens his study with a famous passage from M. de Tocqueville. Or, rather, it would be famous were he still widely read. For he knows us far better than we know him: “I would like to imagine with what new traits despotism could be produced in the world,” he wrote the best part of two centuries ago. He and his family had been on the sharp end of France’s violent convulsions, but he considered that, to a democratic republic, there were slyer seductions:

I see an innumerable crowd of like and equal men who revolve on themselves without repose, procuring the small and vulgar pleasures with which they fill their souls.

He didn’t foresee “Dancing with the Stars” or “American Idol” but, details aside, that’s pretty much on the money. He continues:

Over these is elevated an immense, tutelary power, which takes sole charge of assuring their enjoyment and of watching over their fate. It is absolute, attentive to detail, regular, provident, and gentle. It would resemble the paternal power if, like that power, it had as its object to prepare men for manhood, but it seeks, to the contrary, to keep them irrevocably fixed in childhood … it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their needs, guides them in their principal affairs…

The sovereign extends its arms about the society as a whole; it covers its surface with a network of petty regulations—complicated, minute, and uniform—through which even the most original minds and the most vigorous souls know not how to make their way… it does not break wills; it softens them, bends them, and directs them; rarely does it force one to act, but it constantly opposes itself to one’s acting on one’s own … it does not tyrannize, it gets in the way: it curtails, it enervates, it extinguishes, it stupefies, and finally reduces each nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

Welcome to the twenty-first century.

“It does not tyrannize, it gets in the way.” The all-pervasive micro-regulatory state “enervates,” but nicely, gradually, so after a while you don’t even notice. And in exchange for liberty it offers security: the “right” to health care; the “right” to housing; the “right” to a job—although who needs that once you’ve got all the others? The proposed European Constitution extends the laundry list: the constitutional right to clean water and environmental protection. Every right you could ever want, except the right to be free from undue intrusions by the state. M. Giscard d’Estaing, the former French president and chairman of the European constitutional convention, told me at the time that he had bought a copy of the U.S. Constitution at a bookstore in Washington and carried it around with him in his pocket. Try doing that with his Euro-constitution, and you’ll be walking with a limp after ten minutes and calling for a sedan chair after twenty: As Professor Rahe notes, it’s 450 pages long. And, when your “constitution” is that big, imagine how swollen the attendant bureaucracy and regulation is. The author points out that, in France, “80 per cent of the legislation passed by the National Assembly in Paris originates in Brussels”—that is, at the European Union’s civil service. Who drafts it? Who approves it? Who do you call to complain? Who do you run against and in what election? And where do you go to escape it? Not to the next town, not to the next county, not to the next country.

Now not even to the United States of America. He goes on:

Tocqueville’s great insight—that what prevents the “state popular” from declining into a “state despotic” is the strength of the intermediary institutions between the sovereign and the individual. The French revolution abolished everything and subordinated all institutions to the rule of central authority. The New World was more fortunate: “The principle and lifeblood of American liberty” was, according to Tocqueville, municipal independence. “With the state government, they had limited contact; with the national government, they had almost none,” writes Professor Rahe:

In New England, their world was the township; in the South, it was the county; and elsewhere it was one or the other or both… . Self-government was the liberty that they had fought the War of Independence to retain, and this was a liberty that in considerable measure Americans in the age of Andrew Jackson still enjoyed.

For Tocqueville, this is a critical distinction between America and the faux republics of his own continent. “It is in the township that the strengths of free peoples resides,” he wrote. “Municipal institutions are for liberty what primary schools are for science; they place it within reach of the people.” In America, democracy is supposed to be a participatory sport not a spectator one: In Europe, every five years you put an X on a piece of paper and subsequently discover which of the party candidates on the list at central office has been delegated to represent you in fast-tracking all those E.U.micro-regulations through the rubber-stamp legislature. By contrast, American democracy is a game to be played, not watched: You go to Town Meeting, you denounce the School Board budget, you vote to close a road, you run for cemetery commissioner.

Does that distinction still hold? As Professor Rahe argues, in the twentieth century the intermediary institutions were belatedly hacked away—not just self-government at town, county, and state level, but other independent outposts: church, family, civic associations. Today, very little stands between the individual and the sovereign, which is why schoolgirls in Dillon, South Carolina think it entirely normal to beseech Good King Barack the Hopeychanger to do something about classroom maintenance.

I say “Good King Barack,” but truly that does an injustice to ye medieval tyrants of yore. As Tocqueville wrote: “There was a time in Europe in which the law, as well as the consent of the people, clothed kings with a power almost without limits. But almost never did it happen that they made use of it.” His Majesty was an absolute tyrant—in theory. But in practice he was in his palace hundreds of miles away. A pantalooned emissary might come prancing into your dooryard once every half-decade and give you a hard time, but for the most part you got on with your life relatively undisturbed. “The details of social life and of individual existence ordinarily escaped his control,” wrote Tocqueville. But what would happen if administrative capability were to evolve to make it possible “to subject all of his subjects to the details of a uniform set of regulations”?

That moment has now arrived. And administrative despotism turns out to be very popular: Why, we need more standardized rules, from coast to coast—and on to the next coast. After all, if Europe can harmonize every trivial imposition on the citizen, why can’t the world?

Would it even be possible to hold the American revolution today? The Boston Tea Party? Imagine if George III had been able to sit in his palace across the ocean, look at the security-camera footage, press a button, and freeze the bank accounts of everyone there. Oh, well, we won’t be needing another revolt, will we? But the consequence of funding the metastasization of government through the confiscation of the fruits of the citizen’s labor is the remorseless shriveling of liberty…

But it seems like the way to bet. When President Bush used to promote the notion of democracy in the Muslim world, there was a line he liked to fall back on: “Freedom is the desire of every human heart.” Are you quite sure? It’s doubtful whether that’s actually the case in Gaza and Waziristan, but we know for absolute certain that it’s not in Paris and Stockholm, London and Toronto, Buffalo and New Orleans. The story of the Western world since 1945 is that, invited to choose between freedom and government “security,” large numbers of people vote to dump freedom every time—the freedom to make their own decisions about health care, education, property rights, and eventually (as we already see in Europe, Canada, American campuses, and the disgusting U.N. Human Rights Council) what you’re permitted to say and think…

When something goes wrong, a European demands to know what the government’s going to do about it. An American does it himself. Or he used to—in the Jacksonian America a farsighted Frenchman understood so well. “Human dignity,” writes Professor Rahe, “is bound up with taking responsibility for conducting one’s own affairs.” When the state annexes that responsibility, the citizenry are indeed mere sheep to the government shepherd. Paul Rahe concludes his brisk and trenchant examination of republican “staying power” with specific proposals to reclaim state and local power from Washington, and with a choice: “We can be what once we were, or we can settle for a gradual, gentle descent into servitude.” I wish I were more sanguine about how that vote would go.

 

A Godless constitution 4

Liberty and Tyranny  by  Mark R Levin (Threshold Editions, New York, 2009) is an excellent book; we welcome it; we agree with most of  what Levin has to say.

However, on one point we take issue with him. He writes (pages 33-34):

The question must be asked and answered: Is it possible for the Conservative to be a Secularist?

Of course we firmly answer YES, because that is what we are.

He goes on: 

There are conservatives who self-identify as secularists, whether or not they believe in God or take a religion, and it is not for others to deny them their personal beliefs. However, it must be observed that the Declaration is at opposite with the Secularist. Therefore, the Conservative would be no less challenged than any other to make coherent that which is irreconcilable.

Leaving aside his implication that unless one believes in God one cannot be a true Conservative, let’s examine his conviction that non-belief is ‘irreconcilable’ with approval of the Declaration of  Independence. 

The Declaration refers to God four  times.

1. In the first paragraph it says that ‘the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God‘ entitle a people to a separate and equal station with another people. It would make no difference to the meaning and import of this part of the Declaration if the four words ‘and of Nature’s God ‘ were omitted. 

2. It asserts that ‘all men are created equal, that they are endowed by  their Creator with certain unalienable rights’ etc.   We agree with the ‘rights’ to live, be free, and pursue happiness. The word ‘rights’, however, muddies the waters somewhat as a right has to be granted in law, and if no earthly law can be said to have endowed mankind with these ‘rights’, then the only source imaginable  to keep the sense of the word is some Transcendent Legislator in the sky. At least the authors kept the list of such God-endowed ‘rights’ wisely short. To make a list of all things that should be allowed to men would be an infinite labour to achieve the impossible. Better to list the things men may not do – and keep it as short as necessity allows. Which is why we prefer to say that everyone should be free to (eg) live and pursue happiness. But to come back to the wording of the Declaration, its meaning would be exactly the same if instead of  ‘are endowed by their Creator with’, the authors had used the single word ‘have’.

3. In the final paragraph, the ‘Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do’ etc.  Here the Transcendent Legislator is also the Transcendent Judge of rectitude, but as it is ‘by Authority of the good People of these Colonies’ that independence is being declared, He is not required to say a word and can let His approval be assumed by the authors. Again, if the phrase about God were omitted, the Declaration, its meaning, import, and power would in no way be altered.

4.  In the last sentence, the authors mutually pledge their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to support the Declaration. That is to say, they each guarantee to defend it whatever it takes. They also put in that they rely firmly ‘on the protection of Divine Providence‘. But they are far too sensible to rely on it exclusively. If that phrase , and the word ‘sacred’, were omitted, their pledge would remain just as valid, and their commitment would be no less strong.

So while it may be the case that a Conservative must agree with the values and purpose of the Declaration, Levin’s case is not proved that you can only agree with the Declaration if you believe in a supernatural master of the universe.  

Levin goes on (page 34) to quote George Washington as saying:

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable results … And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion.” [Levin’s ellipsis]

It seems that he interprets the last sentence to imply that Washington did NOT think morality could be maintained without religion. To us it seems clear that Washington DID think it possible to be moral without being religious (as we believe we are). To  Washington this was a concession or ‘indulgence’ that he granted ‘with caution’ because (probably) he didn’t want anyone to think he shared that view. But that doesn’t cancel his acknowledgment of the possibility.  

Finally, Levin should be reminded that the Constitution of the United States does not mention God. Not once. And it is the Constitution that a Conservative must stand by. One definition of an American Conservative could be ‘a strict constitutionalist’.  

Posted under Atheism, Commentary, Conservatism, Reviews, United States by Jillian Becker on Sunday, May 24, 2009

Tagged with , , ,

This post has 4 comments.

Permalink

Going over the falls 1

We draw our readers’ attention to the comments made by ‘roger in florida’ on our post below, The budding American dictatorship.

We do not agree with all that he says. We do not think that one should put the needs of society above one’s own. We think it is when individuals put their own needs first that an economy works best. Reversing the Marxist formula, we say: ‘From each according to his need, to each according to his ability.’ A person working for his own gain (within the law) will have to provide what others will buy; how high a reward he gets will depend on how well he carries out the task he has chosen.  

But on the whole we value the thoughts in these comments. They are intensely pessimistic, painfully enlightening, and – we think with sorrow –  all too probably right in their predictions.

Posted under Commentary by Jillian Becker on Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tagged with ,

This post has 1 comment.

Permalink

Where now shall freedom be found? 1

 Melanie Phillips writes in The Spectator:

So now we are promised a change in America’s fundamental values. And they really will be changed. Obama has said in terms that he thinks the US constitution is flawed. America’s belief in itself as defending individual liberty, truth and justice on behalf of the free world will now be expiated instead as its original sin. Those who have for the past eight years worked to bring down the America that defends and protects life and liberty are today ecstatic. They have stormed the very citadel on Pennsylvania Avenue itself.  

Millions of Americans remain lion-hearted, decent, rational and sturdy. They find themselves today abandoned, horrified, deeply apprehensive for the future of their country and the free world. No longer the land of the free and the home of the brave; they must now look elsewhere.

But to where should they look?

Posted under Commentary by Jillian Becker on Saturday, November 8, 2008

Tagged with , ,

This post has 1 comment.

Permalink

Biden wrong about the constitution 0

 In addition to all his other mistakes or careless lies, Biden misrepresented facts about the constitution, which he seems not to know much about despite his decades in the Senate. 

This from Power Liine:

This isn’t what’s conventionally described as a gaffe, and it won’t swing any votes, but last night Joe Biden garbled the Constitutional role of the Vice President. I wanted to read the transcript before commenting; here was Gwen Ifill’s question:

Governor, you mentioned a moment ago the constitution might give the vice president more power than it has in the past. Do you believe as Vice President Cheney does, that the Executive Branch does not hold complete sway over the office of the vice presidency, that it it is also a member of the Legislative Branch?

Here is Biden’s answer, in full:

Vice President Cheney has been the most dangerous vice president we’ve had probably in American history. The idea he doesn’t realize that Article I of the Constitution defines the role of the vice president of the United States, that’s the Executive Branch. He works in the Executive Branch. He should understand that. Everyone should understand that.

And the primary role of the vice president of the United States of America is to support the president of the United States of America, give that president his or her best judgment when sought, and as vice president, to preside over the Senate, only in a time when in fact there’s a tie vote. The Constitution is explicit.

The only authority the vice president has from the legislative standpoint is the vote, only when there is a tie vote. He has no authority relative to the Congress. The idea he’s part of the Legislative Branch is a bizarre notion invented by Cheney to aggrandize the power of a unitary executive and look where it has gotten us. It has been very dangerous.

 For a man of Biden’s experience, this is a surprising series of misstatements. First of all, he gets wrong one of the most basic facts about the Constitution: Article 1 establishes the legislative branch, not, as Biden said, the executive branch. This is not exactly an obscure fact… 

Second, it simply isn’t true that the Constitution treats the Vice President only as a member of the executive branch. The Vice President is mentioned in Article II as part of the executive branch, but he is also given legislative powers by Section 3 of Article 1, which establishes the Senate:

The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.

Vice President Cheney’s "bizarre notion" is in keeping with the plain text of the Constitution.

Finally, Biden misstated the Vice President’s role in the Senate. It isn’t true that he "preside[s] over the Senate, only in a time when in fact there’s a tie vote." The Constitution contemplates that the Vice President will be the full-time President of the Senate, replaced by a President pro tempore "in the absence of the Vice President." It’s true that the Vice President only gets to vote in case of a tie; but, of course, that’s the only time it matters.

If Joe Biden were a high school student taking a test on the Constitution in a government course, he would get a C or a D. Some would say his mistakes were minor, and, as I said, they certainly won’t swing any votes. But it is distinctly odd that a man who has been in the Senate for more than three decades doesn’t understand the Constitutional role of the Vice President with respect to that body.

 

Posted under Commentary by Jillian Becker on Saturday, October 4, 2008

Tagged with , , , , ,

This post has 0 comments.

Permalink